Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Disneyland Paris Tips Part 2

In my last post I shared my first two tips for visiting Disneyland Paris.  In this one, I'll share the rest of my tips.
We're walking right down the middle of Main Street, USA even thought we're actually in Paris!

Tip #3. Prioritize the rides and attractions that are unique to Disneyland Paris.  Yes, I know. Your kids won't let you walk past Dumbo or the tea cups without riding them.  Tell them that you promise to come back to those when you've checked off the following Paris-only attractions.
Disneyland Paris unique attractions
*Alice's Curious Labyrinth (a walk through that needs some upkeep but is interesting for its novelty)
*Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril (completely different from the one at Disneyland - this one is a roller coaster that goes upside down)
* Space Mountain: Mission 2 (far rougher than any other Space Mountain, in my opinion, and closed for refurbishment during our 2015 visit)
*Mysterious Nautilus WalkThru (a walk through visit of the ship from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, also closed for refurbishment during our 2015 visit)
*Pirates of the Caribbean (the best one in the world, even better then Disneyland)
*Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (also the best in the world, in my opinion, since the train goes under a moat)
*The Dragon's Lair under Sleeping Beauty's Castle (another walk through, but cool nonetheless)

This is Kinley's favorite ride!  Isn't it neat to see the ride name in French?
The coaster is two cars long with seating for 12.  The theme is sort of a Cambodian Angkor Wat kind of place.
Just outside Alice's Labyrinth is a photo op.
Walt Disney Studios unique attractions
*Crush's Coaster (a spinning roller coaster based on Crush from Finding Nemo)
*Cinemagic (a sit-down theater attraction with Martin Short that is sort of like The Great Movie Ride in a theater)
*Ratatouille: The Adventure (a 4D ride that I loved through the kitchens and rooftops of Paris)
*Cars Four Wheel Rally (kind of like the Mater Tractor ride at Disneyland)
Note:There is a Toy Story section that is not unique to Disneyland Paris since it's also at Hong Kong Disneyland.  But if you have no plans to visit Hong Kong, then you should prioritize these.  The Parachute Drop is great, and I like the RC Racer ride, too.  But the a Slinky Dog ride is too long of a wait to go in a circle
Knox's favorite ride was Cars Four Wheel Rally.

Tip #4 :  Don't stand in line for character autographs.  Disneyland Paris has struggled with crowd management for character autographs for years.  Many of the guests come from countries where queuing (or, in American English, forming an orderly line) is not a part of the culture, so people mob the characters, shoving their kids to the front regardless of who was next in line or ignoring the queue altogether and photobombing with abandon.  Additionally, characters at Disneyland Paris have far fewer cast members assigned to them for crowd management making character greetings a frustrating free for all. 

To try to deal with this problem, Disneyland Paris has seriously limited character greetings.  Each character has a designated spot in the park and only appears there.  The main characters (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, etc.) are on Main Street with a few others in Adventureland and near the Toy Story area.  

Our kids (even our 14 year old) love getting autographs, so we bought autograph books as soon as we arrived.  We've trained them to bypass the basic characters on Main Street during Extra Magic Hours in order to zoom past and get to the rides.  But when we saw a queue for Buzz Lightyear later in the day, Knox couldn't resist.  We had no idea we were in for a 45-minute wait.  And Buzz didn't even sign an autograph!  His handler stamped Knox's book instead!  Plus we still had to contend with non-English speaking line jumpers.  Even Knox agreed that it wasn't worth the wait.  In fact, that was our longest wait of the entire trip.
The kids managed to look happy in spite of the incredibly long wait in the heat, but we had all learned our lesson and didn't wait in any ohter character queues for the rest of our stay.

Which leads to Tip #5:  If you really want autographs, book character meals.  We got Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Chip, and Dale at a Cafe Mickey lunch, and we got Ariel, Cinderella, Prince Charming, Sleeping Beauty, and the two mice from Cinderella (Suzy and Perla) at lunch at Auberge de Cendrillon.  Cafe Mickey was a part of our meal plan, but we decided that the extra money we paid to eat with the princesses was well spent to avoid autograph lines.  (And, just so you know, there are appointments for character greetings with princesses each day but you have to wait in line 45 minutes to make the appointment and they are all booked up by 10:00 each day.  And even if you get an appointment, you only get one princess.  Plus you don't even get to choose which one!). Since every character at the meals comes to your table while you eat, it works out perfectly!
Dale made Knox laugh a lot at our character breakfast.  He and Chip came around to greet the kids separately which is different from other character breakfasts we've experienced.
Cinderella and Prince Charming were happy to be able to converse with English speakers!
All of the "face characters" are native English speakers, so the kids got to talk to them as long as they wished!   Ariel and all the other princesses were kind and gracious (as they have been trained to be) in spite of the other guests who refused to wait in their seats until the princesses came to greet them at their tables.

Which leads to Tip #6:  You don't have to plan as far ahead to get great dining reservations.  In Orlando, if you want to eat in Cinderella's Castle, you're going to have to call 180 days out and wait on the phone forever.  But we managed to get reservations for Blue Lagoon (the restaurant inside The Pirates of the Caribbean), Cafe Mickey, Auberge de Cendrillon, and Chez Remy (the new Ratatouille-themed restaurant) by calling from London about three weeks before our trip.  And the lady who took our reservations spoke perfect English!  We didn't try to get reservations at the other popular restaurant, Walt's on Main Street, so I'm not sure about how hard that one is to get.
Chez Remy is themes as if guests are Remy-sized!  So the table above is a jam lid and the seats are Champagne cork covers with a little drink umbrella above!  

Tip #7:  Stay at one of the hotels that is within walking distance and avoid the shuttle buses.  We have stayed at both Newport Bay (a 15 minute walk away from the parks) and at the Sequoia Lodge (a 10 minute walk).  We have also stayed at the Hotel Santa Fe which isn't really within walking distance, and being able to walk back and forth rather than having to wait for the bus is a huge advantage.  First if all, there are too few shuttles.  Secondly, you have to wait for the shuttle with people who don't know how to queue.  And third, those same people are smoking cigarettes like chimneys while they wait.  All that adds up to walking being a far better option.  

Tip #8:  The parks clear out and wait times are significantly decreased within a couple of hours of closing time, no matter what that time is.  Disney Studios closed at 7:00 one day and 9:00 the other days while we were there, so you'd think that visitors would stay until the bitter end since closing time was so early.  But that wasn't the case at all! We were able to get on Tower of Terror, Indiana Jones, and other popular rides with 5 or 10 minute waits at the end of each day.

Tip #9:  Remember that this isn't Orlando.  The French don't run their park the same way, so you won't get exactly the same attention to detail or focus on American ideals of customer service.  Unlike in the U.S., you will see lots of repairs and maintenance during the day.  They don't have as many employees.  Many areas need repairs and maintenance.  Be prepared for that and accept it.  It is what it is, and you can still have a marvelous time.  (And if something really bugs you, tell them at City Hall!)
On every trip we've taken to Disneyland Paris, we have witnessed maintenance in broad daylight.  Most of tasks such as these at other parks are carried out behind screens or during the night.  Here, workers repaint the faux rocks in Fantasyland.  The strangest thing was that these rocks didn't look that bad to begin with.  There are SO MANY other areas of the park that need work more desperately!

And Tip #10 (which is actually true for every Disney park on the planet):  Take advantage of what Disney offers you.  If you can get meals for free, do it.  (I wouldn't pay for a meal plan since it's way too much food.  Our family prefers to share meals.). Use Extra Magic Hours every single day.  Ask lots of questions at City Hall where they dependably speak English and have the authority to give you free Fast Passes if you complain about something.  (For example, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was continually either breaking down or running out of Fast Passes, so we went to tell them how much that interfered with our plans.  They gave us Fast Passes!). Use the single rider lines (especially on Ratatouille, Crush's Coaster, and the Rockin' Roller Coaster).  Hoard Fast Passes since they still use the legacy Fast Pass system instead of wristbands.  Use Parent Swap if your little ones can't ride so that grown ups don't have to wait in long lines twice and teens get to ride both times.  Whatever it is, use it to make your stay magical!

Oh.  And here's one last tidbit that isn't so much a tip as it is an opportunity to brag.  Before this trip, we had never met anyone else who had been to two Disney resorts on two different continents on the same calendar day.  

On August 8, 2008, our family was visiting Hong Kong Disneyland.  We had a character breakfast and flew out later that morning for home via Los Angeles, crossing the International Date Line and landing still on August 8.  Delays meant that when we got to LA, we had missed our flight onward to Indianapolis and couldn't get on another flight for several hours.  On the spur of the moment, we decided to rent a car and drive to Disneyland in Anaheim.  When we got there, we presented our still-valid Hong Kong Disneyland tickets dated August 8, and told our story.  The ticket guy was so impressed that he let us in!  It's one of our favorite Disney moments, but we'd never met anyone else crazy enough to do such a thing.

Until now.  Below is a picture with a Disneyland Paris cast member who did both Disneyland Paris AND DisneyWorld in Orlando on the same calendar day.  We had to have our picture with him, of course!

Whatever day and whatever park you choose for your Disney adventure, I hope it's magical!
If you are a member of the Two Continents, Two Disney Parks, One Day Club (I totally just made that name up), let me know in comments below!


  1. I love Disney World! One thing a lot of people don't do is to take the time to slow down and enjoy the details that Disney puts into the parks (I can only speak to Disney in Orlando). Whenever we go, we take time to slow down and just enjoy being there. To me, it makes it much more magical than just rushing from ride to ride as one would at any generic amusement park.

    1. That is so true (and we do tend to be Disney rushers). The details truly are amazing. My sister and I were at Disney Studios (then known as MGM Studios) on the official opening day of Tower of Terror. On the very first day, the fountains outside the ride had brown scum in the sides to make it spear that water had been in there for years and evaporated leaving scum. Such attention to detail. As we came off the ride (after waiting in line for a couple of hours) we got to meet the Imagineers who made the ride. I told them how very impressed I was that they added that brown scum!

  2. I so wish I could travel with you! You always seem to know exactly what to ask and what to do!! So jealous of all your travels! And so happy that you have shared SO much culture with the kids!!

    1. Remember, you're only getting to see what I choose to share! You're missing sulky Kinley stories and whiny Knox stories! While on the whole we travel really well together, someone who was stuck with us for days on end in stressful travel situations might want to scream! :)